As none of you who attended last year’s ATG Quote 2 Cast Summit would know, there was a mole among you. No, not a spy. A mammal. Very shrew-ish. Okay, it was me. I confess.
I used my unintentional anonymity and sloth-like reflexes to slip away from my conference duties and go undercover at Q2Cast as an obviously worldly and mildly-educated summit attendee. Nobody asked me to. In fact, I was explicitly directed not to talk to anyone at the conference lest others think all ATGers are like me, but that just made the ruse that much more authentic.
My hope was to figure out what makes Quote 2 Cast so unique, and why those who attend almost uniformly walk away smarter, happier, and better looking than when they arrived. So, I threw myself into their shoes (I gave them back later) for three days and lived life on the other side. Here’s what I learned.
- First, I learned that a fake mustache should be worn with the pointy sides down unless you’re riding one of those old-timey bikes with the giant front wheel and tiny back wheel.
- More importantly, I also learned that in Montana, people will just come right up and talk to you, even if they or you aren’t from Montana. I’m not sure if the people here are just friendlier or if conversations flow more freely under the Big Sky, but people get chatty in Missoula. It’s nice.
- On Wednesday, I learned that fly fishing in a boat floating down a secluded river surrounded on all sides by mountains is a great way to get to know people.
- I learned that a 30-minute conversation on a mountain sipping a glass of wine or a mug of frosty root beer is worth a thousand emails, and that an hour or two spent mountain biking, zip-lining, or hiking with your peers, clients, or partners trumps a lifetime of handshakes garnered surfing vendor booths at some uber-conference.
- I learned that a Montana Happy Hour is indeed happy and always lasts far more than an hour.
- I learned on Thursday that attending a conference at the historic Wilma Theatre is both a cool and surreal experience. Built in 1921 and touted as Missoula’s first skyscraper at a whopping eight stories, the Wilma sits along the banks of the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula and is a throwback to a time when working in technology meant building a car or repairing a watch.
- I learned how refreshing it was to attend a conference where the goal was the sharing of ideas, best practices, and experiences, not overt selling.
- I learned the value of listening to thought leaders speak about topics globally relevant in the Quote to Cash ecosystem, and that then being able to discuss those same topics face-to-face with the speakers and panelists a couple of hours later, is an exceptional opportunity to learn and engage.
- I learned that there’s a big difference between big city business casual and Montana business casual, and it usually involves footwear choices. Apparently, ATGers have socks and nice shoes, but they only wear them when they come to visit your company.
- I learned that conference after-parties don’t need a top-shelf musical act or helicopter rides to be special. Memories are made not by the music you hear or the dinner you eat, but by the people you meet and connections you make.
- I learned that 100+ people walking down the street to ATG’s favorite watering hole and filling said tavern with great conversations with great folks from some pretty cool companies is unique for a conference, but just another Thursday night if you’re from Missoula.
- On Friday, I discovered that the intimate setting of a couple hundred invitation-only folks in a beautiful location doing both serious and fun stuff is so much more productive than any mega-event I’ve attended.
- And finally, I learned that the folks that work at ATG and Cognizant, as well as the clients they do business with and the partners that facilitate that, are all pretty special people with wonderful stories and just truckloads of smarts.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to discover at least a bit of what I’ve learned at Quote 2 Cast, perhaps you should add a stop in Missoula to your July calendar and spend a few days in our sandals. We’ll want them back though.